The Supreme Court recently clarified a number of unsettled issues that will have an impact on other wreck removal cases, including whether vessel owners can use their right to limit liability as a defence against a wreck removal order. Among other things, the decision has clarified the highly disputed interpretation of the relationship between owners' duty to take action and their right to limit liability.
The unprecedented retreat of sea ice and changes to season lengths and weather patterns in the Arctic region have provided new opportunities and risks for the shipping industry. In particular, the reduction in journey time achievable by sailing through the Northern Sea Route is attracting increasing interest. This update concerns insurance cover under the Nordic Marine Insurance Plan in respect of navigation in the Northern Sea Route.
In Norway, as in most other jurisdictions, there are separate rules governing the time bar of maritime claims. It is crucial not only to be aware of these rules and the claims to which they apply, but also to keep in mind that the general time-bar rules may supplement the special maritime rules.
To meet the increasing threat from pirates operating in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, Norway has adopted new rules applicable to Norwegian registered ships and drilling units. The rules set out when force can be used in self defence, and allow the use of armed guards and firearms on board ships and units when they are operating in certain geographic areas.
The Court of Appeal recently overturned a first instance judgment for owners' liability for cargo damage, in a case regarding the grounding of a general cargo ship off Orkney in January 2007. The appeal court decided in favour of the vessel's owners, judging that they had taken reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of the vessel and its cargo. The cargo interests have appealed the decision.
Five years after the Rocknes ran aground after hitting an unmarked shoal, the claimants filed a lawsuit against the government claiming compensation for losses incurred. The Norwegian First Instance Court heard the case in February and March 2009. The principal issue was the standard of duty of care that was to be applied with respect to the state's liability.
The new system for investigating maritime casualties grants the Norwegian Accident Investigation Board - a professional, independent and permanent body - authority to investigate all maritime casualties that occur within Norwegian jurisdiction and any that occur outside Norwegian jurisdiction but involve Norwegian vessels.
Exhaust from ships is a major contributor to air pollution. The approach of the International Maritime Organization has been to adopt Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, which sets limits for sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. However, several interests in the shipping business would like to see Annex VI amended to open up for emissions trading.
The system for the protection of mortgagee interest under the Marine Insurance Plan has remained largely unchanged since the 1964 edition of the plan. Among other things, the interest of mortgagees is automatically co-assured under the owner's insurances. Notification of the mortgage by the mortgagee to the insurer is not required in order for automatic co-insurance to take effect.
The adoption of the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage is expected to fill a gap in the international regime for compensation of victims of bunker oil spills. The convention imposes strict liability for pollution damage caused by bunker oil onboard or originating from ships. It is expected that Norway will ratify the convention in 2007.
The Norwegian government has approved a resolution proposing that Parliament denounce the 1976 London Convention on Limitations of Liability for Maritime Claims. If Parliament agrees, Norwegian shipowners will no longer be able to invoke the limits of liability under the 1976 convention against parties resident in states that have ratified the 1976 convention without the 1996 protocol to the convention.
The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law is preparing a new convention for the carriage of goods by sea. It is assumed that the working group entrusted with preparing the convention will complete its task during 2006. The aim of the new convention is to replace existing conventions on the carriage of goods by sea currently in force with a new liability regime.
A recent report by the Permanent Law Commission for Maritime Matters recommends that Norway ratify the Hazardous and Noxious Substances Convention. The convention will strengthen the legal position of injured parties with regard to sea accidents involving certain types of dangerous goods.
Norway is to replace its maritime inquiry system with a professional, independent and permanent Commission of Inquiry. In comparison to the current system, investigators will have a higher degree of relevant expertise, accidents will be investigated more thoroughly and general competence will be developed for the prevention of accidents at sea.
Norway has become one of the first states to ratify the 2003 Protocol to the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage 1992. The protocol establishes a supplementary fund for international oil pollution compensation and offers an additional tier of compensation.
In a case where the trailers of two truck/trailer combination vehicles were irrevocably damaged during shipping, the Supreme Court ruled that the amount for which the carrier was liable should be calculated on the weight of the trailers alone, as these were held to be independent units even though they had been attached to the trucks when the damage occurred.
Norway operates a dual system with regard to maritime liability claims, whereby the 1976 London Convention on the Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims applies with respect to those states that have adopted it, but not the 1996 protocol to the convention. The Ministry of Justice has now suggested that Norway withdraw from the 1976 convention, but apply the 1996 protocol without exception.
For many shipments under the Norwegian Maritime Code it is advantageous for all parties to use a seaway bill rather than a bill of lading. However, certain uses of the document require special attention, such as where letters of credit are used in connection with seaway bills subject to the code.
Ship brokers are being advised to familiarize themselves with maritime competition law, as new legislative and enforcement initiatives aim to make the regime stricter. Under competition law, brokers not only must avoid engaging in cartel practices themselves, but must also ensure they do not act as middlemen in cartel agreements between ship owners.
Freight forwarders are sometimes instructed by foreign shipowners not to turn goods over to Norwegian buyers because the seller has not yet paid the freight due, even though a bill of lading indicates that the freight has been prepaid. This leaves the freight forwarder in an awkward position: although it understands the buyer’s predicament, it is powerless to effect delivery.
The Maritime Directorate has proposed to Parliament that the Increased Port State Control Directive be implemented by amending both the Law of Seaworthiness and the Norwegian Regulation on Port State Control. Under the directive, port authorities must refuse certain ships access to a port due to their poor condition, flag and/or history, unless special considerations apply.
Few voyage charterparties expressly define the consequences if a carrier temporarily shifts the vessel while laytime is running under one charterparty to perform loading/discharging under a second charterparty. The question thus arises of whether laytime can run simultaneously under two different charterparties. The answers under Norwegian and English law appear to differ slightly.
The Norwegian authorities are in a better position than most to reach a quick and accurate decision on whether to grant refuge to a vessel in distress. Norway has already undertaken a survey of its coastline, implemented most of the measures under consideration by an International Maritime Organization safety subcommittee and assigned the power to handle such situations to one authority.
The arrest of a vessel based on a claim against a demise charterer is excluded under Norwegian law unless the claim is also secured by a maritime lien. However, an arrest may be granted if it can be proven that the debtor is likely to be the real owner of the asset. One increasingly common situation in which this may be the case is under financial lease contracts.
The Norwegian Parliament is considering legislation to extend the Norwegian territorial sea. The proposal is a response to increasing fears of major oil spills as Russia's oil export industry continues to grow. Importantly, the proposal would enable Norway to establish traffic separation zones, thus keeping laden oil tankers further away from its coast.
A committee has proposed amendments to the Norwegian Maritime Code, which implements the provisions on limitation of liability included in a 1996 international protocol. It suggests that claims for the costs of cleaning up after accidents be exempted from the general limitation rules. Instead, a separate regime based on the vessel’s gross tonnage is proposed.
The Norwegian Supreme Court recently handed down a decision in a case where an injured third party, the Norwegian government, filed a direct action against the tortfeasor's protection and indemnity (P&I) club. The case establishes that direct action can be taken against the club in the event of the assured's insolvency.
Pursuant to the Norwegian Insurance Contract 69 of June 16 1989 insurance companies are free to decide which risks they insure and under what policies. 'War risk' is specifically defined in marine insurance. However, following the attacks of September 11 2001 on the United States the line between war and terrorism has become indistinct.